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leon robinson (europe/usa)

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Head First
Head First
Price: CDN$ 18.97
39 used & new from CDN$ 2.36

4.0 out of 5 stars Magical Eighties electropop soundscapes., April 2 2010
This review is from: Head First (Audio CD)
When Goldfrapp release a new album, you never know what you will find in the box.
Is it the dreamy, quirky Goldfrapp of Felt Mountain? The glam of Supernature? Or even the folky, acoustic feel of their most recent record, Seventh Tree?
"Head First", Goldfrapp's fifth album, sees the virtuosic British duo (that electro-pop siren Alison Goldfrapp and her wizard sidekick Will Gregory) embrace 80s blockbusters (Top Gun, Flashdance), and euphoric synth-bombast (Abba, ELO, The Pointer Sisters), to buoyant - if not mindblowing - effect.
Will and Alison once again reinvent themselves, and head back towards the disco.
The CD comprises nine brisk tracks and clocks in at under 40 minutes, so there's hardly a wasted second.
There is not a sigle dud, all songs snappily titled, five with just single words.
This is upbeat, unashamedly pop album.
There's "Rocket" with its witty guide to how to end a relationship ("I've gotta rocket/You're going on it/You're never coming back"). "I Wanna Life", which quotes Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, is unashamedly camp and sounds like the early '80s hit "Gloria" by Laura Brannigan and the frankly implausible notion of Goldfrapp finding herself too tubby for her jeans on "Alive".
The beautiful "Believer", with its stadium-sized chorus,reminds of Fleetwood Mac.
"Voicething" tones down the disco and is floaty and atmospheric while "Hunt" is dark and dramatic.
Apart from the dance pulse, there is a subtler side to Goldfrapp, and happily that is also here, as a title like "Dreaming" might lead you to suspect.
There's not much room for the experimental Goldfrapp of old here, although the abstract album closer "Voicething' with its sampled, cut up vocals and no actual lyrics could almost have found a home on "Felt Mountain".
"The breathy technology of Voicething is more captivating than a Laurie Anderson tribute but something of a musical non-sequitur".- Colin Somerville.
All in all, the album is first and foremost about all-out electropop, all done in the best possible taste.
No duds here, but not a truly killer song either.
Seventh Tree

Price: CDN$ 16.75
10 used & new from CDN$ 8.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gabriel's voice shines throughout... as distinct as ever., March 2 2010
Mr. Gabriel has never been one to conform to musical trends, or even follow them for that matter.

So with that thought in mind, eight years after the release of his last album, "Up", he pulls out a bunch of songs by other artists and arranges them for an orchestra to play.

Armed with his singular voice, he proceeds to bring a symphonic exploration of music by artists as diverse as Davif Bowie (Heroes), Paul Simon (Boy In The Bubble), Neil Young ( Philadelphia), Talking Heads (Listening Wind), Lou Reed (The Power of the Heart), Arcade Dire ( My Body Is a Cage), and even Radiohead (Street Spirit).

Yet, this is not any ordinary cover album, it is Peter Gabriel's interpretation of songs by other artists, and that, in my opinion, makes all the difference.

The album is the first part of a project that will see the artists covered here repaying the compliment by producing their own takes on Gabriel's back catalogue over the course of the year.

To help craft his recording, Gabriel enlisted former Durutti Column member John Metcalfe, composer, arranger and the expertise of producer Bob Ezrin to put together the 12 songs.

"Scratch My Back" is an absolute treat that shouldn't be missed.

My Highlights: Heroes, The Boy In The Bubble, Listening Wind, The Power of the Heart, My Body Is A Cage, The Book of Love, Philadelphia.


Black Light
Black Light
Price: CDN$ 17.41
17 used & new from CDN$ 11.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to the the Eighties!, March 2 2010
This review is from: Black Light (Audio CD)
Like a fine wine, it seems that the Armada keep on getting better and better.

The most striking thing here is about face of musical direction. Gone are the big beat breaks and alt-dance-funk riddems that populated earlier outings.

It's all about the 80s here - from synth-pop symphonies to electromagnetic philharmonic full phat milk : kind of dirty, yet sugar sexy.

Their sixth studio album certainly embraces riffing but, rather than guitars, very Eighties-sounding synthesizers provide the oomph.

With two greatest hits albums in the last five years, and the musical stagnation that was "Soundboy Rock", Groove Armada were fast becoming yet another great British dance outfit to run out of ideas. As Andy Catto admits: "We could've knocked out an album of reggae-influenced house bangers and a couple of chill-out tunes, and that would've been a much easier life, but we needed a new challenge. Neither of us was interested in just repeating ourselves".

Andy Cato and Tom Findlay came under the spell of old heroes Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music for the making of "Black Light".
The duo got hooked on Roxy's "Love Is the Drug' during recording and sure enough a performance from Bryan Ferry materialised on moody electro-ballad "Shameless".

These nostalgic homages are well judged and expertly crafted, sounding like a genuinely modern update of the best of the era.

With "Black Light" Cato and Findley have firmly re-established themselves as the best of the bassline best.
Overall their concern is disco, but the overlap with sumptuous rock makes this release interesting.

"The result is a mixed bag, including some real stinkers, but the pair manage to rustle up just enough bombastic electro-pop, including a sharp turn from Bryan Ferry on Shameless, to carry the day". - The Guardian

Soundboy Rock
The Best Of...
Yeah Ghost

Lost in Dreams
Lost in Dreams
Price: CDN$ 16.02
31 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

4.0 out of 5 stars An eclectic, heartfelt and accomplished set., Feb. 19 2010
This review is from: Lost in Dreams (Audio CD)
This is the tenth album from the former popsinger, saxophonist and songwriter.
"Lost In Dreams" is the latest chapter in his musical odyssey of a career - an adventure with more than the usual share of twists and turns, and even a few perils.
Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Stigers spent his early school years studying clarinet and saxophone - two instruments that awakened his jazz sensibilities at an early age.
During his teenage years and beyond, he often sat in with legendary jazz pianist Gene Harris, who held weekly jam sessions at a local club in Boise.
During the '70s and '80s, Stigers was also immersed in the punk rock and new wave scenes of the day. It's no surprise, then, that the circumstances surrounding his first records were marked by confusion between artist and label about creative direction.
His self-titled debut album on Arista in 1991 Curtis Stigers was a straight-ahead pop album that sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, thanks to several hit singles and numerous appearances on the talk show circuit.
A struggle between Arista and Curtis Stigers then emerged over the next three years, as he wanted to go down a roots rock direction. When it was eventually realised it was a commercial disappointment, and Curtis left the record company to focus on jazz.
"I wanted to be Loudon Wainwright meets John Hiatt", he admits.
He eventually signed with Columbia, where he released a third pop album, Brighter Days, in 1999.
He left Columbia after "Brighter Days", once again taking his unreleased jazz record with him. During session work as a guest vocalist on one of Gene Harris' last records, Curtis met Concord producer John Burk, who offered to release the orphaned jazz record.
His jazz debut Baby Plays Around was then followed by four more albums on Concord.
Curtis Stigers is more than the easy-listening artist he's often labelled as.
In 2007, the swinging sax-playing jazz vocalist made the point resoundingly clear with his album Real Emotional, a mix of originals and classics by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Tom Waits and Mose Allison. Stigers's laconic tones were complemented by his funk-sax sound; he revealed an affecting eloquence on a heartache song like "I Only Want To Be With You", or demonstrate a technical subtlety of haunting inflections on Emmylou Harris's "I Don't Wanna Talk About It Now".
In his new album, "Lost In Dreams" - which includes "My Funny Valentine", "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning", but also Annie Lennox's "Cold" and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" - he sustains the same engaging formula of "Real Emotional" and his reputation for distinctive mixes.
It has taken a very long time, but the American singer is finally winning over jazz critics, who -- even after the beautiful You Inspire Me -- could not forgive him the sins of his pop past.
An unorthodox mix of evergreens, originals and unusual singer-songwriter material (including Ron Sexsmith's "Reason for Our Love"), the latest set marks another stage in Stigers's rehabilitation. Nobody has a sharper eye for a promising tune, although Stigers can't quite breathe life into an easy-going arrangement of "We'll Meet Again" prefaced with a dip into Pink Floyd's "Vera".
Just to conclude, "Lost In Dreams" might be the one to knock down the sniffy purist barriers, Stigers' rough hewn but heartfelt, finger-snapping delivery applying itself to an eclectic set.

Price: CDN$ 21.92
29 used & new from CDN$ 10.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly distinctive and pleasant offering., Feb. 19 2010
This review is from: GROOVE, EUGE - TONIGHT (Audio CD)
Euge Groove - a pseudonym for saxophone master Steve Grove - has earned himself a dedicated fanbase
with his consistently pleasing releases, and "Sunday Morning" ranks with his best: a solid collection
that is both visualized and executed pretty well.
The popular saxman returns with a superb set of mellow Smooth Jazz grooves that will re-establish
Euge Groove as one of the music's finest sax players.
He brings a loose, after-hours feel to a varied selection of songs on "Sunday Morning", his 6th album.
Cuts like "Say My Name", "All For You" and "The Gospel Truth" emanate a Sunday morning vibe.
As does the title track!
On the funkier side check "Babylon" - very Bone James-ish as well as the sleek "On Your Knees".
If you like 80's style Soul then you'll like "Yes", which is a nice vocal track featuring Dax Reynosa, while "Tenderly" is a romantic mood setter.
Many jazz cats join Euge Groove on his latest offering : Alex Al on bass, Paul Brown on guitar, Lenny Castro on percussion, Philippe Saisse on strings, Michael Egizi on organ and Joel Campbell on piano and keyboards.
All in all, a very enjoyable, distinctive Smooth set.
Born 2 Groove

Break Up
Break Up
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 18.06
44 used & new from CDN$ 3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable pop album, where Pete and Scarlett shine., Feb. 19 2010
This review is from: Break Up (Audio CD)
The duet album "Break Up" was recorded in 2006, two years before Johansson's official debut Anywhere I Lay My Head, which got mixed reactions, and was regarded as the ambitious young Hollywood starlet's amateurish vanity project.
On this album, which reflects on a relationship falling apart, she teams up with New Jersey pop singer-songwriter Pete Yorn: their goal is to capture Serge Gainsbourg's recordings with Brigitte Bardot.
Yorn and Johansson sing together on each of Break Up's nine tracks, offering a musical account of the beginning, middle and end of a tormented love-affair. The songs - Yorn told USA Today - were in fact recorded two years before "Anywhere I Lay My Head" - and Johansson recorded her parts in just two afternoon sessions.
What's in it for the duo to have this shelved artefact brought to light now? Johansson says "I always thought of it as just a small project between friends, but it perfectly captures where I was in my life at the time".
Though Pete said the album's concept came to him in a dream, its musical inspiration is precise: Serge Gainsbourg's 1967 and 1968 albums with Brigitte Bardot. But while Gainsbourg was a notorious Gallic sexpot, Yorn is just a rugged "indie-dreamboat" from New Jersey.
Instead of the sensuality of Gainsbourg and Bardot, Yorn offers a chugging mid-tempo rock song - with Johannson's voice resembling that of Amy Winehouse: despite the foxiness of Johannson's vocals, their duets are less steamy.
Still, this is a tuneful and convincing collection of guitar pop embellished with likeable country and folk influences.
Eight of Break Up's songs were written by Yorn, one by Big Star's Chris Bell, and all were produced by Quincy Jones's grandson Sunny Levine. A brief nine-song fling, this compact and bijou collaboration works worst when it's overreaching itself - a slightly pointless cover version of Chris (Big Star) Bell's "I Am the Cosmos" - and best when it keeps things understated (the Yorn-penned "Clean", which finds the pair declaring "Would you talk to me?/ I want everything to be so clean").
Johansson has yet to fully find her own voice, and instead employs a smoky Winehouse twang, but it meshes nicely with Yorn's laid-back drawl and breathy falsetto.
All in all, this is not a masterpiece, but certainly it is a good, mellow album where a young, brilliant actress teams up with a run-of-the-mill talented American pop singer-songwriter, whose flimsy voice is no match for her ...Billie Holiday/Amy Winehouse-esque tones: the results are some very enjoyable pop songs.
Bonnie And Clyde (Ltd Ed) (Ri)
The Originals
Initials Sg
Jane Et Serge (Ltd Ed) (Ri)
I Am the Cosmos
Back And Fourth

Price: CDN$ 15.43
28 used & new from CDN$ 11.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic, soulful, contemporay pop/jazz. A 'must' listen., Feb. 19 2010
This review is from: Vagabond (Audio CD)
Following the critical reception of his previous albums, Spencer Day is back with "Vagabond", an eclectic collection of songs of differents styles and: folk, soul, jazz, cabaret and contemporary pop.
"I've drawn from the Great American Songbook quite a bit in the past, but I really wanted to infuse this album with a more contemporary aesthetic, and also draw on some influences from the early '60s, like Burt Bacharach, Roy Orbison and Dusty Springfield. I wanted to create a sound that could stand alone and not be easily put into one category, but at the same time appeal to a broad range of listeners".
And he has succeded.
One key element in Spencer Day's appeal, which has seen him hailed as a new jazz/crossover star to rival Norah Jones, was immediately apparent from the moment he sang on stage, while he was opening for Rufus Wainwright at the Napa Valley Opera House and at the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Tanglewood Jazz Festival.
Day's first album for the major label Concord Jazz is aimed fair and square at the middle-aged female demographic. Those women who still hanker after the singing legends of the Sixties such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Paul Anka.
Not to mention the immediate comparisons with the new generation of jazz crooners such as Michael Buble, Harry Connick,Jr., Peter Concotti and Jamie Cullum.
Besides his look and personality and performance style, it's the way that Day's uncontrived eagerness and evident enjoyment feed into his music that explains his rapid success, combining as they do with a thorough understanding of vintage jazz idioms and the great American songbook.
The album is is full of the kind of music that you were used used to listen to on radio shows, some thirty/fourty years ago or the stuff they played over the tannoys in old-fashioned department stores: big orchestra-backed ballads with lush production values and a smooth crooner up front.
On the disc, there is a small group of string players, a quartet on most occasions, and at times they echo the approach used by the string arrangements in old rock, soul, and even doo-wop records of the past, but it does not sound too retro.
The Utah-born nomadic singer-pianist-songwiter has a fine baritone tone, and the tracks are given an intensity they so rightly deserve.
His piano playing is excellent, the arrangements throughout the show involve different permutations of a strings, horns strong backing line-up, from the intimacy of a quartet to the splash of the full band.
Some of the tracks will sound haunting and soulful.
Spencer Day's original songwriting, in fact, extends his range still further towards the quality end of the pop/jazzy market, as with the beautiful "Joe", its folky lyricism building to a force- fully urgent climax, the country-tinged "Till You Come to Me" and the swinging "I Got a Mind to Tell You".
Without a doubt, Spencer Day can sing.
His warm, seductive voice is addictive and "Vagabond" Tonight is as good as an album of great songs can get.
Pick up "Vagabond" and the music will most definitely be "down in your soul".
So, for all you romantics out there, this one is an absolute must.
Highlights: "Out of My Hands", "Till You Come To Me", "Vagabond" and "Maybe ( Tuesdy Morning)".
The album debuts at # 11 of the Billboard Top Jazz Albums.
Issue date: September 26, 2009

Piece By Piece
Piece By Piece
Price: CDN$ 16.75
13 used & new from CDN$ 9.04

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse., May 2 2007
This review is from: Piece By Piece (Audio CD)
When you're born with the ability to sing like Katie Melua, they could set a shopping list in front of you and you'll break people's hearts singing it.

Katie has a timeless voice and on her latest album she has chosen a set of blues-based songs that set it off perfectly.

Huge natural talent was always going to secure Katie Melua's future, the excellence of "Piece By Piece" will simply reinforce her arrival as major force.

Nonetheless, her latest offering does not surpass in beauty and success her debut album (which became Britain's biggest seller and has so far attracted three million copies world-wide).

The album does occasionally reach out to a potentially wider fanbase thanks to its ability to draw on a number of influences and remain fascinatingly diverse.

There are some self-penned tracks as well as some covers but, for the most part, it's an accomplished affair that feels as though Melua has taken her time over it.

It's also distinctly blues-based, occasionally feeling ponderous depending on the mood it catches you in at the time.

Highlights include the single, "Nine Million Bicycles", which is genuinely sweet. The track was inspired by Melua's own visit to China and some of the things she heard on the trip, thereby equating the fact that there are nine million bicycles in Beijing with the certainty she is in love.

The meandering blasts of flute that weave their way throughout lend the song a Chinese feel and make it quite enticing.

Further evidence of the album's diverse instrumention is evident on the upbeat and melodic "Thank You, Stars", which provides more heartfelt lyrics and a really nice blend of strings and mandolin.

While the kooky "Halfway Up The Hindu Kush" is another that demonstrates Melua's vocals at their most happy go lucky - it's no coincidence that all three tracks were written by the conductor, Mike Batt.

Elsewhere, Katie demonstrates a more melancholy and mature style on self-penned tracks such as "Piece By Piece" and "I Cried For You" - although such moodswings can sometimes catch you off-guard if you're not in the right mood for them.

More straightforward blues fare comes in the form of "Blues In The Night" and "Blue Shoes", both of which find Melua at her moodiest, while a slightly more rousing cover version of "On The Road Again" feels like the sound of an artists having fun with one of her favourite tunes.

It lacks the edge of the original but should still delight fans, while bringing the album out of one of its brooding passages.

Another cover version drew a more mixed response from both these listeners, however. The artist has re-recorded The Cure's seminal "Just Like Heaven" for the soundtrack of the movie of the same name.

The hardcore Cure fan among us may find it risible and sickly sweet, while the Melua fan enjoy the acoustic guitar and female makeover given to Robert Smith's classic.

That said, given that we represent both a Melua fan and sceptic it's satisfying to be able to report that "Piece By Piece" does achieve what Melua set out to - that is to say, fans will get what they're seeking, while the album does indeed appeal in small doses to those who may not have been touched by the artist's work so far.

Mi Sueno
Mi Sueno
Price: CDN$ 18.45
5 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inimitable grace., April 29 2007
This review is from: Mi Sueno (Audio CD)
When those magnificent Cuban veterans Buena Vista Social Club exploded on to the scene, their singer Ibrahim Ferrer was the life and soul of the party.

It wasn't so much his voice - he really didn't have much of one - but more what he did with it: his timing, and the irrepressible glee with which he delivered his frequently saucy lyrics.

"Mi sueno" means "my dream", and that is literally what this posthumous new album meant for him: he had always wanted to record a collection of boleros - meltingly romantic traditional songs - and that is what he spent his last weeks recording.

Luckily, his death didn't prevent that dream being realised, as he'd left a cache of high-definition demos.

So here we are: sensitively backed by his superb group on piano, bass, guitar, and drums, and at one point poignantly joined by fellow veteran Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim calls to us from beyond the grave with inimitable grace.

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